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July 24, 2009

Let me through, I’m an editor
Posted by Patrick at 11:45 AM *

Galleycat reports the Twitter response of Erin McInnis to the news that Amazon has bought Zappos: “Does that mean that Zappos can come into my closet and take back my shoes?”

Hilarity ensues. Meanwhile, of course, no one is giving sufficient consideration to using this as the basis for a business model. At this week’s Tor.com meeting I opined that once our future corporate selves have arranged for the ability to, Amazon-like, remotely delete content from our customers’ e-book devices, instead of hiding this possibility in the dark folds of our EULA we should offer it as a premium add-on. For only $9.99 extra per month (lower rates available with a 24-month commitment) our editors will, randomly and without warning, break into your devices and delete everything on them that’s crap. No, don’t thank us, quiet satisfaction is our reward.

Comments on Let me through, I'm an editor:
#1 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 12:33 PM:

LOL!!!

Not only would this improve the tone of people's reading, but would deal with obsessive file hoarding and data proliferation!

#2 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 12:34 PM:

All of which are real social ills. It's what Tom Doherty calls "doing well by doing good!"

#3 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 12:37 PM:

Could you also replace the title of the junk (just the titles) so that I appear more literate than I am? So that people who glance over at my Kindle will see Critique of Pure Reason instead of Dan Brown's latest?

#4 ::: Jaws ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 12:42 PM:

But that would necessarily mean that all of those Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly video files I've been saving up for research purposes (and to call them on it when they contradict themselves a few months down the road) would get deleted as crap.

Tongue firmly planted in cheek. Notice that I didn't say whose tongue or whose cheek... and on that note...

#5 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 01:03 PM:

break into your devices and delete everything on them that’s crap

Of course, one person's crap is another person's good crap.

#6 ::: Sarah W ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 01:04 PM:

For only $9.99 extra per month (lower rates available with a 24-month commitment) our editors will, randomly and without warning, break into your devices and delete everything on them that’s crap

My first thought was that I might pay that much for to have typos, plot holes, and incontinuity mistakes to be magically corrected . . .

. . . but then I realized that this would open the door for other tweaks and sentence restructures and other 'it would have been so much better ifs' that eventually the reader might discover herself in the middle of a story where changes made in the chapters she just read are made for a modified plot that might change itself as she reads it--a sort of acid trip lit, I suppose.

Because some writers are never finished.

#7 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 01:28 PM:

"Doing well by doing good" -- I think that was The Old Dope Peddler's business model as well.

#8 ::: Rob T. ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 01:34 PM:

Patrick @2: Was the allusion to Tom Lehrer's "The Old Dope Peddler" ("doing well by doing good") deliberate? I mean, one can view the publishing industry as an engine for creating (and making money off of) book addicts, but I didn't expect an actual publisher to put it quite that way, even indirectly.

As for the possibility of charging to delete crap "randomly and without warning", you should charge twice as much to do so non-randomly at the behest of the consumer. There's a fortune to be made here!

#9 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 01:37 PM:

This can only hurt Zappo's, which is a great, great place to buy shoes (as long as you know your size -- as the owner of my own Brannock Device (you know, the thing which restructures the matter of a dead planet into a giant shoe store) and dad of some EEEE-width kids, I know sizes (y'know, when they make soccer cleats they assume everyone has little narrow feet, and the feet of everyone at Nike must look like little skis)).

We really like Zappo's in my family (it helps that we are a short distance from a distribution center, so the shoes come in less than 24 hours).

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Perhaps Zappo's will act like yeast in the massive loaf of Amazon and improve them. Sure.

#10 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 01:47 PM:

Angels and ministers of grace protect me from Harold Bloom getting the keys to my library.

#11 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 02:00 PM:

Sturgeon's Law as a business model, hmmm....

#12 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 02:03 PM:

Could someone break into my memory and delete any recollection of the verse (or even of the existence) of Rod McKuen?

#13 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 02:11 PM:

Could someone break into my memory and delete any recollection of the verse (or even of the existence) of Rod McKuen?

Done!

I've removed your memories of Rod McKeun and overwritten your Rod McKuen memory-space with false recollections of an annoying singer/songwriter.

#14 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 02:24 PM:

Rob @ 8: I think the phrase, in various versions, is much older than the Tom Lehrer song. For example, it's been frequently said and quoted of the missionaries to Hawaii that "They came to do good, and they did right well."

#15 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 02:25 PM:

Let me through, I’m an editor

"Don't panic, I'm a sheet metal worker!"

#16 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 02:37 PM:

#13, Jim Macdonald: Can you do that for me, too? Get rid of those memories of Rod McKeun, genocidal tyr-- oops.

#17 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 03:18 PM:

Watch it, Patrick, or I'll turn you into a science fiction fan and editor. And I'll make it so it's always been that way. And wondering about it will itch inside your head worse than little bugses.

#18 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 03:28 PM:

(y'know, when they make soccer cleats they assume everyone has little narrow feet, and the feet of everyone at Nike must look like little skis)

Ghu preserve them from Pumas, which are way too narrow for my D-width kiddy-length feet. (Nikes fit me just fine, thanks.)

Back on topic, more or less: Yes, I can see authors trying to get editors to change stories as the authors decide they need revising. Plots? Who needs plots? And that character there needs to be more important, but these guys need to disappear .....

#19 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 03:35 PM:

I once saw a company whose business model was entirely based on deleting old (potentially embarrassing) email messages.

I think the company went under and/or got swallowed up during the dot-com un-boom, but ironically I just found an archived copy of their circa-2000 website: http://www.specimenbox.com/di/

#20 ::: Leroy F. Berven ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 04:00 PM:

P J Evans @ 18: "Yes, I can see authors trying to get editors to change stories as the authors decide they need revising."

Or, ObCopyediting: Dhalgren.

#21 ::: Jennifer ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 04:45 PM:

Ah, but if you're really really smart, and out to make some nice money, you'll create two versions of every file.

Version one will have a time limit on it.

Version two will be permanent. (and five times more costly.)

You could also sell digital 'insurance'. Accidentally got your digital reader wiped? Need to switch to the newest version of the machine? Need to upgrade your OS? Dropped your reader in the bath and fried it? Mysteriously lost all your files, and no one knows why? No problem, lucky thing you, you've got insurance! Just bop over to the site, log in via secured sign in, and reload all your files. (I'd do monthly charges on this service...)

People just aren't thinking capitalistic enough about digital media. tsk, tsk.

If I had any programing skills at all, I'd be soo rich...

#22 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 04:51 PM:

You know, there's a bill in Congress that proposes giving copyright to fashion designs, including footwear.

I wouldn't want that in reality, but the fictional possibilities are worth contemplating. Besides unannounced closet visits from Amazappo's, one can imagine steampunkish Victorian-era-wear becoming not just a statement of cool, but de rigeur for open source clothiers that want to avoid draconian penalties for infringing anything designed since 1922...

#23 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 05:14 PM:

It occurs to me that we could cross-fertilize Patrick's idea with this year's statutory Hugo rant.

If all works that didn't meet appropriate standards of literary merit were deleted*, the Hugo lists would of course be of universally acceptable quality, right?

-----
* Or, even better, amended to meet them. Stealthily.

#24 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 05:53 PM:

abi @ 23... the Hugo lists would of course be of universally acceptable quality, right?

But of course.

Darn, where's the deed for that Florida beach-front property?

#25 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 05:57 PM:

Serge @24:
Darn, where's the deed for that Florida beach-front property?

I broke into your house and stole it for your own good. It was cluttering up your portfolio.

#26 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 06:05 PM:

abi @ 25... You also took that bridge deed away, didn't you?

#27 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 06:14 PM:

Serge @26:
You also took that bridge deed away, didn't you?

I deny all knowledge, and you can't prove otherwise.

#28 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 06:56 PM:

#20
I'm trying to avoid reading it. Still.

#29 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 08:45 PM:

Compared to Apple, Amazon is an anarchist collective.

Best line of the day. It ain't so -- as anyone who has ever been in an anarchist collective will tell you -- but never mind.

Anyone...? P. J? Bruce? Anyone?

#30 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 08:58 PM:

And for what it's worth, Dhalgren is one of my favorite novels. Just sayin'.

#31 ::: Tim in Albion ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 10:36 PM:

delete everything on them that’s crap.

Wait - everything? Without an OS, the device would be pretty useless.

I'm pretty sure Sturgeon's Law wildly underestimates the proportion of crap on my computer. For one thing, I'm running Windows...

#32 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 10:48 PM:

Lizzy, the closest I've come to an anarchist collective is fandom. Does that count?

#33 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 10:51 PM:

Lizzy L @ 29... What about the Democratic Party?

#34 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 11:07 PM:

Serge, the Democratic Party isn't organized enough to be a collective, and most of the elected officials lack the guts to be anarchists.

#35 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 11:19 PM:

rm @ 9: ...the feet of everyone at Nike must look like little skis...

Yes! I live in Portland, and have friends who work at Nike (in IT) so I'd like to buy the products, but they run ridiculously narrow.

#36 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 11:21 PM:

P J, probably not. Though from what friends of mine have said, certain convention committees probably qualify.

#37 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 11:58 PM:

Now I'm waiting for someone to write a story about reading books that change out from under you. (But should it be a "word poem" or can this be turned into a plot? On second thought, even I can think of a few possibilities.)

#38 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 12:18 AM:

PNH @30, did I ever tell you about the first time I met Delany? It was at a Readercon, and I'd bought two or three of his books and asked him to sign them. He did, but also flipped through and made some corrections.

#39 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 12:20 AM:

geekosaur, #37: I once had someone try to convince me that the text in the Bible had changed, and that the text of several of my classic SF books had changed. But he also knew why: they knew that he was going to be reading those books, so they had made sure to replace them on my shelves with copies containing the altered text.

Who were they? I never quite got a straight answer, but I think it had something to do with either the boss at his previous job who was trying to have him killed, or the person who had captured his soul and frozen it in time, so that the past 4 years of his perception were all an illusion, because it was really still 1992.

#40 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 12:38 AM:

Fragano @12, leaving you happily in The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?

#41 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 12:46 AM:

Patrick is on to something here. I'd be willing to pay for a service that quietly, discreetly removes the products from my house that I never should have bought in the first place. The small laminator that was an impulse purchase at Office Depot (what on earth possessed me?), the shirt in a pretty color that's a style I never wear and never will (but isn't that a pretty color!), the Improving Book that I've always been meaning to read, and so on. Just think how much tidier and spacious my house would be!

#42 ::: Leroy F. Berven ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 01:11 AM:

Lee @ 39: If only you could have introduced him to George Orr, or perhaps to the protagonist of Heinlein's "They" . . .

#43 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 01:24 AM:

Steve C. @3: I have a Dover book copy of Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon, that was misbound with a cover for a Dover science book; something impressive, like Elements of Mathematical Biology.

As an aside, one year when I was in college, I stood in line to register for some classes* so long that I read Star Maker start to finish with 15 minutes to spare. Not the book I'm describing; I picked that one up years later at a bookstore because it was so unique (and reasonably priced).


* The head of the department was playing some sort of game. 1st year students (and up) had been required to pre-register at the end of the previous year for classes in his department. And on the day of registration, every student taking classes in his department had to be interviewed by him. The point apparently was to demonstrate to the administration how important his department was, and gather more resources for his department. Thank God I had an interesting book to read!

#44 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 02:35 AM:

By a great coincidence, before I was aware of this post, I was meditating on all the boxes of stuff in here. Some of it was given for birthday and Christmas presents by people who felt obliged, and just for a moment, I thought perhaps it would be nice after a certain point for people to come over on such occasions and remove an item or two (subject, of course, to my panicked veto).

And oh, how I have wished Mr. Spock could drop by, deftly place some fingers on my forehead, and then tell me with certainty which items -- books, media, you name it -- I would never, ever use or refer to again. After all that was hauled away, he could go in once more and tell me which items would only cause mild regret if they were to vanish from my life forever.

Spock, baby! If you're out there... call me!

#45 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 03:31 AM:

Lizzy L:

Student co-ops in Berkeley? Even post-Barrington...I lived in Le Chateau, and that was often more anarchist than collective.

#46 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 08:43 AM:

#37 geekosaur: Now I'm waiting for someone to write a story about reading books that change out from under you.

As in the The Eyre Affair, perhaps?

#47 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 12:49 PM:

Epacris #40: Many moons ago, I bought a collection of McKuen's verse. It's one of the few books I wish to have the ability to have unread.

#48 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 01:00 PM:

janetl #41:

Particularly if there was also the ability to un-pay for it. Think of how much tidier and more spacious my bank account would be ...

#49 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 01:02 PM:

Fragano #47:

I too wish I could un-read the both of them. It's my mother who would have had to un-buy them, although I believe they came as a freebie with Book-of-the-Month, which leaves their status beyond undetermined.

#50 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 03:02 PM:

Kip@44 et al: the NESFA Displacement Authority (declared after NESFen performed Drew Whyte's move, which required ~100 feet of standard rental truck) once declared that it had the right to seize any box which it had moved twice, provided the box had not been opened between moves and was still unopened 6 months after the second move.

Mind you, NESFADA never found anyone who was willing to \take/ such a box....

#51 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 05:05 PM:

Lizzy L. @ 29

I've never been able to use the phrase "anarchist collective" with a straight face. It's a phrase on the same order as "Western Civilization" (ask Ghandi). There are a few rare anarchists I've always wanted to collect, of course.

janetl @ 35

Oh, that's why I couldn't keep working at Nike: my feet are too wide.

#52 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 08:39 PM:

geekosaur @37, I've had the experience of books changing their text from out from under me, and it's very disorienting. The next time I'm in bed with a fever, I'll have to make sure to keep a notebook and pen on the nightstand, because when I fall asleep reading while feverish, my brain makes an effort to continue the book. Next time it happens, I'll have to write down what I THOUGHT was happening next, to be able to compare it to the actual book.

Oddly enough, a fever-dream that I had once that extended Swordspoint wound up forecasting a couple of incidents in The Privilege of the Sword, years before the latter was published. I suppose I might have extrapolated them out of data in The Fall of the Kings, which HAD been published at the time.

#53 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 09:03 PM:

There's a children's book in which the wicked stepfather has invented a machine for changing text in published materials (although it has a limited range). The kids realize it when he changes words in their favorite book to win an argument. I'm totally blanking on the title--anyone else know this one?

#54 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 11:03 PM:

I read Dhalgren over and over, after my mother bought it for me and left it on my bed when I was...16, maybe?

I met Delany at my first Worldcon (NorEasCon 2, IIRC). I was a nerdy gay boy with long blond hair and deep emotional problems. And I'd read Dhalgren repeatedly because I found new things in it every time. I did the timelines on the "Anathemata" and found the timeloops and sequences that couldn't possibly exist, and I was (according to Chip himself years later) the first to notice that the second moon that appears early on is exactly what would appear if a giant mirror were behind our moon (i.e. slightly smaller, in opposite phase, with different markings). Since this was in the section "Prism, Mirror, Lens" I assumed it was deliberate.

At any rate, I was so nervous about meeting The Great Man that I stood there biting my fingernails in front of him.

To this day, he remembers my name when we meet.

#55 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 10:13 AM:

This has a Weatherwax ring to it. "We're the other sort of godmother. We don't give people what they think they want, we give them what they know they ought to have."

#56 ::: Marc Abrahams ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 11:57 AM:

Sixty or seventy years ago Flann O'Brien proposed a nearly opposite business model. For a fee, he would send someone to write notes in the margins of your books. The thoughts, style, and location of the scribblings would upgrade your status as person of culture. O'Brien called the service "buchhandlung", and offered a graduated scale of pricing and service. Details appeared in his newspaper column in the Irish Times. You can see at least some of this via Google books at http://tinyurl.com/mjepps

#57 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 01:33 PM:

Marc Abrahams @ 56... Say, might you be the Marc Abrahams of the Annals of Improbable Research?

#58 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 02:24 PM:

ajay @55:
We don't give people what they think they want, we give them what they know they ought to have.

Drat you, that was a sonnet itch, and I'm out of practice!

The editor came knocking at my door
One day when I was far too blocked to write.
I almost shut him out, but he was quite
Insistent that he'd fixed such things before.
He strode around the house at breakneck pace
And peered at all the books that lined my walls
Then pulling out his iPhone, made some calls.
"I'll be a while. This one's a classic case."
The next thing I remember, hours on
My shelves were filled with bad fic, slash and slush.
"That's better now, but hey, I have to rush!"
He shook my hand, and (with my books) was gone.
He'd met this poor distracted writer's need:
A household full of books I wouldn't read.

#59 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 02:45 PM:

janetl @ 41 and joann @ 48

I have often pondered that same thing when trying to declutter and/or am short on cash. "If only all the things that I would never even miss if I didn't know they were gone would disappear, and the money I had paid for them would show up in their place."

And, of course, if wished were horses... (we'd have a lot more shoveling to do.)

#60 ::: Marc Abrahams ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 06:30 PM:

Serge @ 57 — That's me.

#61 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 06:34 PM:

Marc Abrahams @ 60... Thanks for the laughs!

#62 ::: Sarah W ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 07:56 PM:

Rikibeth @52, I owe you so much for mentioning Privilege of the Sword!

I love Swordspoint (my often re-read copy was a break-up gift from an otherwise completely wrong college boyfriend, speaking of a memory I'd like removed, if it weren't for the inherent benefits of horrible mistakes)and had pretty much given up on Ms. Kushner writing another book set in Riverside.

I just ordered a copy---I can't wait to see what Alec and Richard have been up to!

#63 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 08:04 PM:

Sarah W@62: Do you know about The Fall of the Kings?

#64 ::: Sarah W ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 08:28 PM:

David @ 63: I think I knew that Fall of the Kings was one of Ms. Kushner's books just from shelf-reading that section of the library, but I didn't know it was set in the same world. I certainly should have checked . . . so much for librarianship . . .

(rubs hands in gleeful anticipation) Thank you!

#65 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 10:35 PM:

Marc/abi/...: in the forewords to Better Than One (Noreascon Two GoH book and the first one I did production on), Wilhelm comments that Knight puts marginalia in everything, and that she worries about a visiting author taking one of his books from their shelves and finding Knight's notes in it; although I've just rechecked* and found she doesn't say he did this in other peoples houses.

Serge: Marc's wife was on a couple of panels at Readercon this year; I don't know whether she travels, but if you see "Robin Abrahams" on the list of participants, go. (She's also known as the local ]]]etiquette[[[ columnist.)

* running down and up two flights of stairs to the library. ML: sound mind in sound body!

#66 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 10:52 PM:

Sarah W, you're more than welcome -- I should warn you, when TPotS came out, and I first read it, I had to keep putting the book down every so often because a line would just leave me overwhelmed with squee, or sometimes other emotions.

Brace yourself NOW for the reprise of "I've brought us some fish."

Oh, and did you know that there was a story about Richard's younger days in the March/April issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction? It was called "A Wild and a Wicked Youth," and it's very good.

#67 ::: Marc Abrahams ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 11:47 PM:

Serge@61 and Chip@61 - thanks! Robin (my wife -- she who was at Readercon)'s blog is at http://robinabrahams.com/ Robin is, by the way (returning to the origin of this thread, more or less) a good customer of Zappos. I think she's hoping to remain so.

#68 ::: Sarah W ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 05:17 PM:

Rikibeth @ #66 Oh, and did you know that there was a story about Richard's younger days in the March/April issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction? It was called "A Wild and a Wicked Youth," and it's very good.

I'll have to ILL it--thanks again!

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